A snapshot of life in January 1997

Shopping centre brings soccer drama to the stage

A play about Watford Football Club’s relegation from the First Division will take the stage at the Palace Theatre in May thanks to sponsorship by The Harlequin shopping centre. The play, Elton John’s Glasses by David Farr, is to be the first of a series of projects planned by the theatre and The Harlequin Merchants Association. The play is set on the last day of last season, when Watford lost 1-0 to Leicester City at Vicarage Road and were relegated from the First Division. The title may entice Elton John to experience the Palace Theatre, which he supports as vice-president.

[January 3, 1997]

Shoppers flock to town following regeneration

Delighted traders in Rickmansworth enjoyed an up-turn in Christmas spending thanks to the recent regeneration of the town centre. A majority of shopkeepers have praised the £250,000 facelift which they claimed boosted customer spending to an all-time high. Improved access and parking were cited as the main reasons for the soar in trade. Mrs Pat Purdy, manager of Serves-U-Rite, said: “We have enjoyed one of our best Christmases for many years.”

[January 3, 1997]

Night spot bids for extension

Revellers will be spilling onto Watford’s streets as late as 3.30am if a town night spot gets permission to extend its opening hours by half an hour. Entertainment centre Amazone, in The Parade, currently has permission to open until 3am every night of the week barring Sunday. But the popularity of dance nights, which the venue has been holding for the past year, has led management to seek a half-hour extension from Watford Council.

[January 10, 1997]

Hundreds oppose permit parking

More than 600 residents of west Watford have added their backing to the campaign against permit parking in the town. A petition with hundreds of signatures has been collected by Mr R.A. Lambert of Liverpool Road and Mrs Smyth of St James Road. A copy, sent to the Watford Observer, outlines how the residents of Liverpool Road, Clifton Road, Weston Road, St James Road and Cardiff Road are against the proposals to bring a controlled parking zone to most of Watford town centre.

[January 10, 1997]

Canal boats stranded in ice

Canal boats moored in Croxley Green and Rickmansworth have been left encased in ice as a result of the arctic temperatures. Leisure boats in Croxley Green and barges moored near Batchworth Lock are stuck and now boat owners are looking forward to the end of the big freeze. Mrs Theresa Gorman, who owns a leisure boat in the marina, said: “Nobody’s going anywhere. The ice is four inches thick so there is no way anyone will get out.”

[January 10, 1997]

Hornets in cup tie farce

Furious football fans have voiced their anger after Watford Football Club’s Tuesday night FA Cup game with Oxford United was called off just seconds before the kick-off time. Farce descended at Vicarage Road along with the frost as more than 8,000 fans packed into the ground to see the rearranged cup tie. Scheduled for a 7.45pm kick-off, the game had been given the go-ahead by the referee but, as Watford players lined up in the tunnel, the game was abandoned after a late, impromptu pitch inspection. Fuming supports booed and jeered when the announcement was made on the public address system. The fans were given a special ticket as they left the ground, which will give them free entrance to the rearranged fixture on Tuesday night.

[January 17, 1997]

Stadium plunged into darkness

Thousands of Watford supporters were toasting an obliging Oxford United fan who made last-ditch repairs to the Vicarage Road floodlights – only to see his side dumped out of the FA Cup. The ill-fated fixture was nearly postponed for a third time on Tuesday night after a power failure plunged the stadium into darkness as kick-off approached. But a visiting fan, electrician Tony Taylor, rescued the third round tie when he managed to revive the lighting, allowing the game to begin 45 minutes late. Mr Taylor, 53, said: “In a way I wished I hadn’t helped out because we were well beaten.”

[January 24, 1997]

Studios to open doors to public

A unique tour giving visitors the chance to see a blockbuster movie being made is at the heart of the £200million Leavesden Studios development. Film bosses unveiled their exiting plans for the former Rolls-Royce engine plant this week. They estimate 1.5million people per year will be drawn to Europe’s biggest film complex by the world’s first interactive studio tour. Buses will ferry people to one of the nine studios where panoramic windows will give them a glimpse of a major film being made. Then a studio tour will give them an unprecedented insight into the glamorous world of film-making. From there they can visit a state-of-the-art entertainment complex featuring film-based rides, restaurants and shops.

[January 24, 1997]

What was happening in the world in January 1997?

• Frank Sinatra is hospitalised following a heart attack (January 9)

• Radical guerrillas take 72 people hostage and shoot at police outside the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru (January 13)

• Borge Ousland of Norway becomes the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unaided (January 18)

• US President Bill Clinton is inaugurated for his second term (January 20)

• Madeleine Albright becomes the first female Secretary of State (January 22)

• Space shuttle Atlantis successfully returns to Earth (January 22)